TORONTO - Coach Doc Rivers took the blame for the Celtics’ uneven performance in an 84-79 loss to the Raptors Friday night.
“I told our guys I messed their rhythm up a little in the first half,’’ Rivers said. “I told them I wasn’t going to play [the starters] a lot of minutes, then try to make a charge in the second half. I don’t think we handled that very well.
“Again, you keep learning [about] your team. I thought we came out almost in a slow, cool mood, I thought I activated that. By sitting them, not playing them in the first half, they lost their rhythm.’’
Though the Celtics led by as many as 13 points in the opening half, there was evidence they were not on top of their game.
“I thought our guys were tired early on,’’ Rivers said. “That’s why I wanted to try get them some rest in the first half. To me, we didn’t have it, honestly. You can see. I thought I contributed by the rest part in the first half.’’
Rivers said he will change the substitution patterns as the Celtics visit New Jersey Saturday and Charlotte Sunday.
“I won’t do this, that’s for sure,’’ Rivers said. “It’s funny, the bench actually extended the lead. I thought [the starters] came in and were kind of out of their rhythm and they never really got it back. You could see there was no urgency. Even when they got the lead, our guys were like, ‘We’ll come back.’ You can’t play like that, because someone’s going to make a shot, eventually.
“The only thing I didn’t like, team-wise, we pride ourselves on being able to get stops down the stretch - and they scored. We made silly plays, bad fouls, left open shooters, made up our defense, made some switches, that’s not characteristic of how we play defense. So, 27 and 27 [points] in the third and fourth quarters, we’re never going to win that way.’’
Said captain Paul Pierce: “There was some slippage. We had a nice little lead early. Doc sat us longer than usual. But, you know, coach thought it was good time to rest us. That’s when they made their run. Their zone really bothered us, we set up for a lot of jumpers we usually make. We couldn’t get anything going.’’
Allen stayed home
Ray Allen did not travel to Toronto and will “probably’’ miss the trip to New Jersey, according to Rivers. Allen could rejoin the team for Sunday’s game.
“It’s not that serious, it’s swelling,’’ Rivers said of Allen’s injured ankle. “I’m concerned when anybody’s injured. It’s not a serious injury, that’s what the doctors keep saying, so that makes me feel better about it.’’
The Celtics have a 9-2 record with the Avery Bradley-Rajon Rondo backcourt.
“We played our game,’’ Rondo said. “We missed a lot of shots that we usually make. A lot of times we’re a jump-shooting team. We were playing well, we were getting stops in the beginning.
“We missed some shots even when we had the lead. It caught back up to us in the second half. In the third quarter they came out with energy and made a lot of shots, give them a lot of credit. Our offense carried over to our lack of defense, we usually do a good job of not allowing that but tonight we did.’’
A defensive plus
Bradley has helped change the Celtics’ defensive dynamic, though not in a quantifiable way. Surprisingly, Bradley was only seventh on the team in average steals per game (0.57) before Friday. Bradley leads the Celtics in games played (57) and has 33 steals.
“I probably could go for more steals, play the passing lanes more,’’ Bradley said before Friday’s game. “But that’s not what I’m trying to do.’’
Said Rivers: “There’s not an individual number that will show ‘Avery Bradley did that.’ He keeps the ball in front of him. He puts pressure on, he understands, especially now, if you make a team use clock and make them get down to 10, 11 seconds before they’re getting into their offense, you’ve done your job. If a team can score on you with 11 seconds left, continually, then they’re pretty good offensively or you’re pretty bad, defensively.’’Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.